6 intriguing U.S. Open qualifiers we'll be watching this week
The U.S. Open is always full of fantastic storylines. Professionals who have to pull of a miracle to qualify, amateurs with day jobs, college students playing against the idols they grew up watching.
This year’s field is no different. We picked out six golfers you should be rooting for at Shinnecock Hills, even if none of them are named Tin Cup.
An Ontario native, Rank has been a full-time NHL referee since 2016. He worked 76 games in the 2017-18 season, including multiple games in the Washington Capitals-Columbus Blue Jackets series.
He’s also been playing amateur golf for a decade, but his biggest challenge didn’t come on the ice or the links. It came in 2011, when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. But Rank beat it, and took a new outlook on his athletic careers:
“At the end of the day, next week is a celebration for me of my golf career and my golf achievements,” he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “If I go there and shoot 70, great. If I go there and shoot 80, that’s fine. Essentially, with beating cancer, (it’s possible) I couldn’t be living today. Any time I get to go do cool opportunities and cool experiences like that, you can’t really look too down on them.”
Andrew “Beef” Johnston
Johnston arguably became famous at the 2016 U.S. Open, an event where he said if he won, “I’ll probably be drunk for a week.” He didn’t win the tournament (finishing T54), but did win the hearts of the golf world.
Beef missed the cut and placed T42 in his past two starts on the European Tour, and has finished in the Top 10 twice in nine events. But at the Surrey, England sectional qualifier, he shot a 10-under to share medalist honors with James Morrison and earn a spot in the 2018 U.S. Open field list. Having him in the field always makes a tournament more interesting.
Hailing from the hometown of Rocky Marciano (the famed boxer with a 49-0 record), Brockton, Mass., Parziale has some athletic glory to live up to. He’s done well for himself so far. Parziale is a full-time firefighter, but that didn’t stop him from winning the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, which earned him an invite to the 2018 Masters — and a practice round with Tiger Woods and Fred Couples. Usually, that’s all the championship would earn him, but the USGA announced last fall that the U.S. Mid-Amateur and U.S. Junior Amateur champions would earn exemptions to the 2018 U.S. Open field. Parziale missed the cut in Augusta, but he’s an easy one to root for at Shinnecock Hills.
Goodwin earned his exemption to the 2018 U.S. Open field without even knowing it. Goodwin, who plays for SMU, won the U.S. Junior Amateur last July. That event wasn’t added to the exemption list by the USGA until three months later in October.
It’s not the only notch on Goodwin’s belt, though. He also won the 2016 and 2017 AJGA Rolex Junior Player of the Year awards, making him just the fifth player ever to do that. The other four are Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Brian Harman, and Tracy Phillips.
Shooting a 1-over on your first 18 holes of sectional qualifying? Better luck next year. Unless you’re Michael Putnam. Putnam joined Vijay Singh as the two players to shoot 1-over in their qualifier. Singh cut his losses and left. Putnam rallied, and shot 8-under on the second 18 and earned himself a spot at Shinnecock Hills. It’s hard not to pull for anyone with that type of attitude.
Werenski became famous for his golf, but not in the way most golfers do. Instead, the Massachusetts native earned his stripes by winning the final season of Golf Channel’s Big Break in 2015. The show awarded its winners exemptions to select pro events or tours. After winning the competition, Werenski earned a sponsor exemption to the Barbasol Championship, where he made the cut and finished T72 with an even par scorecard. He’s played dozens of PGA Tour events since.
But now, after shooting a 4-under 140 at the sectional qualifier in Palm Beach, Werenski earned another shot, this one for the U.S. Open.